Hate Speech Bill: Those Misinforming Nigerians Are Ignorant – Senator Sabi Abdullahi

 

 

Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, has said that opponents of the Hate Speech Bill are ignorant of the dangers that loom if the bill is not passed into law.

In a signed statement on Sunday, Senator Abdullahi said the opponents are only pretending to protect ‘Freedom of Speech’ by misinforming Nigerians on the intent of the legislation before the National Assembly.

The lawmaker, therefore, warned Nigerians to beware of “false information being spilled out by some persons and groups parading themselves as serving the interest of the nation”.

Citing a report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on ‘Overcoming Dangerous Speech and Endemic Religious Divides in Central Nigeria’, Senator Sabi Abdullahi said persons with strong bias capable of escalating ethnic and religious violence are infiltrating the media.

According to him, such persons and groups are opposed to the passage of a Hate Speech law by the National Assembly as same would put an end to their trade that depends on using ethnic and religious bias for the realization of self-serving interests.

“Both Christians and Muslims have said that the media blatantly expresses bias against their religion, and that journalists will deliberately not report their story or perspective.

“Outside the immediate communities affected by a specific incident, the general public’s understanding of violent events is often incomplete.

“In some cases, false news about attacks have incited the people to undertake revenge attacks in various parts of the country,” the lawmaker quoted the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) report as saying.

Senator Abdullahi, who cited another report by the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), said there are strong indicators making it imperative for the introduction of legislation by the National Assembly to criminalize Hate Speech which is responsible for high cases of violence and killing.

The CITAD report reads in part, “In 2017, Nigeria experienced the continuation of three major conflicts that provided a fertile ground for the propagation of hate speech.

“These were the resurgence of the Biafra Agitation in the South East, the clash between the Army and members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, popularly referred to as the Shiites Movement in the North West, and the transformation of the localized farmers-herders conflict and cattle rustling to the large scale rural banditry that had taken an ethno-religious character across much of the North West and North Central zones of the country.”

“Across the country, scores of people were killed as a result of these conflicts, further providing fuel for the wildfire of hate speech.

“More than at any time in the recent history of the country, hate speech became widely used in public discourse and communication.

“They fueled a dynamic that weakened national cohesion and made it difficult for the country to collectively address the threat to peace that affected the population in the country”, the CITAD report said.

‘You Can’t Muzzle Nigerians,’ IBB Condemns Hate Speech Bill

'You Achieved Great Success In Anti-Corruption Fight’, IBB Tells Buhari At 76
General Ibrahim Babangida during an interview on Channels Television’s Roadmap 2019, in April 2018.

 

 

Former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), has lent his voice against the Hate Speech Bill, warning the sponsors of the bill not to try to muzzle Nigerians.

He said the bill was inimical to the growth of the country and does not support the ideals of a democratic society.

General Babangida spoke during the visit of the national leadership of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) on Wednesday at his hilltop residence in Minna, the Niger State capital.

According to him, there is no basis for the ‘Hate Speech Bill’ before the National Assembly and no one can muzzle the voice of Nigerians.

The former military leader noted that a similar bill was presented before the 8th National Assembly and he advised against it saying, he was surprised that the bill has resurfaced.

“There is no basis for this; now we are developing and we should be allowed to develop,” he said.

He added, “If we make mistakes people can be cautioned; if somebody goes off, you have the right to call him to say ‘no we don’t want this.”

General Babangida noted that government at all levels would only experience progress when people were able to express themselves on happenings in the country.

He stated that the only reason for the bill was that the sponsors wanted to show “eye service as we call it in the Army”.

The former military president also described the death penalty prescribed in the bill as “crude”.

He said, “If somebody made hate speech and you put him in the gallows and shoot him, it is crude; it is not 21st century. It could have happened may be some 300 years ago but not now.”

Babangida, however, informed his visitors that he would join the NUJ and other stakeholders to protest against the passage of the bill.

“I am with you on this; I will also talk to those of us who could be in position to bring sanity to bear on some of these things,” he assured.

The former military president explained that he had been following media publications on the forth coming United States election, saying journalists would have been jailed in Nigeria if that was the case.

He credited himself with opening up the media space in the country, even when some of his colleagues opposed his policy, saying the country was better for it.

Babangida, therefore, challenged the media remain strong focussed on what Nigeria wants, stressing that threatening freedom of speech with death threat or N10 million it sounded ‘silly’.

Earlier, the NUJ National President, Christopher Isiguzo, solicited the support of the former military president to bring down the hate speech bill before the National Assembly.

NANS Warns FG Over Hate Speech, Social Media Bills

 

The national leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has cautioned the Federal Government over the proposed Social Media Bill and the Hate Speech Bill and called on Nigerians to raise their voices against the two bills.

At a press conference held at the Iweirohin House of the Nigeria Union of journalists in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, the National Public Relations Officer of the Association, Azeez Adeyemi, described the bills as anti-human which if allowed to stand could undermine the rights of Nigerians.

“Our attention has been drawn to an attempt by the federal government of Nigeria in connivance with a senator representing Niger-East, Senator Muhammad Sani Musa to silence the Nigeria populace especially the youth of which the students constitute it largest percentage through a social media bill,” he said.

“The bill had last week passed the second reading at the floor of the red chamber, which means it is on its way to becoming a law”.

“Part 3 (12) of the bill gives law enforcement agencies the power to shut down access to the internet and social media without recourse to the National Assembly or a court.”

“There is no doubt that the Nigerian government is all out to clamp down on critics of their anti-human policies and acts. However, any government going this way is gradually moving toward anarchy, a point Nigerian students will resist with every strength we have.”

Read Also: 50% Of Journalists Could Be Jailed If Hate Speech Bill Is Passed, Says Rep Member

“In a related development, through Sen. Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Deputy Chief Whip), the Nigerian government is also backing a Hate Speech Bill, otherwise called the ‘Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill’.”

He believes that the bills could infringe on the fundamental rights of Nigerians.

“These bills are tactical moves to shut the ordinary man, youths and the journalist to pave way for their impunity.”

“If this bill is allowed to thrive, the government will be vested with the sole power to determine what a hate speech is, and as a result witch shunt opponents and even journalists.”

“On this note, Nigerian students stand firm against the social media bill in totality and every other thing it might stand for.”

“We have students in other countries of the world but they will never be caged the way the Nigerian government is trying to muscle us as if they want the world to end in this century.”

“Even when the social media bill is yet to be passed into law, lawmakers are beginning to witch shunt our students who talk about their anti-masses behaviours on social media.”

“It should be noted that only a students/elite could identify most of these wicked act of politicians as some of them pose to be good intentions even when they meant the opposite.”

An injury to one is an injury to others

“As we speak, one of our students, a second-year student in the Department of Science and Technology Education, Bayero University,
Yahuza Tijjani is currently in prison custody for speaking his mind on his Facebook wall allegedly against a member of the state assembly. ”

“He was picked since September 30, 2019, after posting the following on his Facebook wall “You know he’s not well educated, as a result of which he doesn’t know how to calculate figures. He said 1230, he later said 1500 and at the ended saying 2000.”

“In another post, Tijjani also wrote, “I pray to God almighty that the election petition tribunal [will] declare the election of state’s assembly member representing Madobi as inconclusive”.

“For posting the above, the lawmaker through the police got Tijani arrested, make him spend seven days at the state criminal investigation department, Police ‘Zone 1’ regional headquarters in Kano state before he was sent to jail by the magistrate.”

“However, the lawmaker, Kabiru Is’mail, and Tijjanis are natives of Madobi Local Government Area.”

“Clearly, this is a complete case of inhumanity to man and such a power-drunk attitude will not be allowed against any of our students in the country. ”

“To this end, we appeal to the said Hon. Kabiru Is’mail to as a matter of urgency release Tijjanis within the next 72 hours or joined the list of enemies of our students as we are ready to fight any oppressor to stand still on this issue.”

“We, however, enjoin our students in Kano state to remain calm and not take laws into their own hands as we shall confront when the time for that comes.”

“The National President of NANS, Com. Danielson Akpan has, however, directed that state Chairmen of NANS with indigenous students associations should stage a peaceful protest to their different state assemblies after which there will be a national students protest to the National Assembly against this anti masses bill,” he concluded.

Hate Speech Is The Root Cause Of Violence, Says Senator Abdullahi

 

Hate speech has been attributed to the root cause of violence across the country.

Senator Sabi Abdullahi, sponsor of the widely debated National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech bill has said.

The bill is currently on the floor of the National Assembly and has created lots of reactions across the country, particularly the death penalty clause, which Senator Abdullahi has promised will be amended by the senate.

READ ALSO: Lawyer Says Hate Speech Bill Is A ‘Distraction, Waste Of Time’

Speaking on Channels Television Sunrise Daily on Tuesday, Senator Abdullahi explained that all the violence recorded in the country is preceded by hate speech and the bill when passed into law, will address the dangers hate speech poses for the country.

“I am still strongly convinced that the problem of hate speech is one that Nigeria must tackle. From what I have studied, both from a lot of scholars that have gone on the subject of violence in the country, there is a conclusion that almost all the violence is preceded by hate speech.

“Yes there may be a crisis between groups, but what will lead to violence is that somebody must have said something that is inciting to violence and that is how people who are innocent will fall victims, losing their lives and livelihood for no just cause because somebody somewhere is irresponsible enough to incite other people to that violence.

He added: “What is the cause of the violence? Hate speech is at the root of it. When we talk about hate speech, the issue of incitement comes in.”

The Senator urged Nigerians not to panic and detach emotional sentiments from the issue because the bill will reflect the views of Nigerians when it goes through legislative input by the National Assembly.

“Nigerians have agreed that there is a problem of hate speech, so the issue of agreement will come at the end of the day because the engagement process of the bill is still on and the beauty of democracy is that we are able to engage, have a conversation and talk through the issue whether good or bad and at the end of the day, if there is a consensus there will be r650 for action.”

50% Of Journalists Could Be Jailed If Hate Speech Bill Is Passed, Says Rep Member

 

A member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Musa Bagos, has said that if the proposed Hate Speech Bill is passed, about 50% of journalists could end up in jail.

He said this on Monday while briefing journalists after presenting a letter of protest titled: ‘Rejection of the proposed legislation on hate speech protection from Internet falsehood and manipulation’, from his constituents in Jos South/Jos East Federal Constituency, to the Senate.

Hon. Bagos lamented that the bill seeks to breach the fundamental rights of Nigerians as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

If passed into law as envisaged by its sponsor, “I’m sure half of you pressmen will be in jail,” he said.

He, however, maintained that it is dead on arrival and therefore, assured Nigerians that it will be shut down in the House when transmitted for concurrence.

Read  Also: Lawyer Says Hate Speech Bill Is A ‘Distraction, Waste Of Time’

The lawmaker believes that Nigeria does not require such a ‘draconian and tyranical law’ in the 21st century, as there are existing laws that address such issue raised in the proposed bill.

The letter read: “I humbly write in view of the above subject matter, having received series of complaints and objections via text messages, calls, emails, WhatsApp messages and direct contact with some of my Constituents who are aggrieved and had to express their concerns over the Hate Speech and Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bills currently undergoing passage into law by the Senate, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“The views expressed by my Constituents, many Nigerian citizens and even foreign nationals who have reached me all voiced out against the passage of the two Bills.

“The views so expressed align with my thoughts and position as the Honourable Member, Representing Jos South/Jos East Federal Constituency, Plateau State. More so that there are extant laws in our Jurisprudence and under the Law of Tort like the Defamation of Character, Libel and Slander, that addresses the concerns raised by the two Bills.

“Having sworn to an oath to defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended), I am herein guided and constraint to categorically and unequivocally state in strong terms, that I and my Constituents will not be a party to, nor grant consent to any proposed legislation that will compromise nor subvert the Fundamental Rights and Justiciable Rights of citizens as enshrined in Chapter VI of the Constitution of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria 1999 (As Amended) and in particular, Section 33 the right to life, also Section 39 (1) which guarantees the right to freedom of expression and the press which clearly states that; “every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and import ideas and information without interference” and bearing in mind that the Constitution is the grand norm of Nigeria.

“This approach is even more crocodile and draconian in nature seeing that death sentence has been advocated for as penalty in the Hate Speech Bill. Thus, to endorse these bills is tantamount to taking our dear nation back to the days of anarchy and tyranny that deprives citizens of the right to freedom of expression and the press thereby reaping the citizens from the right to dignity of human person as provided for in Section 34 (1) (a)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).”

Death Penalty Will Be Amended, Says Sponsor Of Hate Speech Bill

 

Sponsor of the bill to establish a National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech, Senator Abdullahi Sabi, has said that the death penalty proposed for anyone found culpable will be amended by the senate.

Senator Sabi in a statement on Sunday explained that the bill will be fine-tuned to ensure that the clauses contained in its provisions to be passed into law, reflect the views of Nigerians when it goes through legislative input by the National Assembly.

The bill was read on the floor of the Senate on November 12 and Deputy Chief Whip who sponsored the legislation stated that it will address the dangers hate speech poses for the country.

READ ALSO: Sowore: SERAP Petitions African Commission Over ‘Harassment Of Sureties, Falana’

The Bill defines the act of Hate speech as, a person who uses, publishes, presents, produces, plays, provided, distributes and/or directs the performance of any material, written and or visual which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour commits an offence if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred, or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up against any person or person from such an ethnic group in Nigeria.

It adds that: Any person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the person shall be punished with death by hanging.

He added that contributions and inputs by critics and supporters of the bill will be welcomed by the Senate.

We have followed closely arguments for and against the hate speech bill and seen the reason why some kicked against it.

“Given the high respect which we have for Nigerians, we will make an amendment to the death penalty aspect that most Nigerians objected to so that a bill that meets their expectations is passed into law.

“Clearly from the conversations, Nigerians agree that we have a problem in the society today as a result of hate speech which has fuelled so many killings and violence, and is responsible for cases of depression and suicides.”

The lawmaker explained that the Independent National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech to be established will guard against every act of discrimination against Nigerians by way of victimization.

The Commission, according to Abdullahi, will have an executive chairperson, a secretary and twelve commissioners appointed through a rigorous process involving the National Council of State, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the National Assembly.

“The overall concern is to curb violence and unnecessary loss of lives and livelihoods of Nigerians due to hate-induced violence.”

Hate Speech Bill: Propose Death Penalty For Corrupt Politicians, Falana Tells NASS

 

Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana has asked the National Assembly to make laws that will pronounce death penalty for corruption perpetrated by politically exposed persons.

Mr Falana while reacting in a statement to the hate speech bill currently debated by lawmakers described it as an encroachment on the legislative autonomy of the state governments.

A bill to establish a National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech, sponsored by Senator Abdullahi Sabi, was introduced on the floor of the Senate on November 12 and has generated reactions across the country.

The bill proposes that any person, who commits an offence deemed as hate speech, shall be liable to life imprisonment and where the act causes any loss of life, the person shall be punished with death by hanging.

READ ALSO: Senator Vows To Go Ahead With Bill To Establish Prohibition Of Hate Speech

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), explained that the National Assembly has no power to exercise such power because Hate Speech is not covered in the Exclusive Legislative and Concurrent Legislative Lists.

“Since we are operating a federal system of government the supreme court of Nigeria had declared in a number of cases that the national assembly lacks the constitutional powers to make laws outside its legislative competence, which are by implication residual matters meant for the houses of assembly of the states. Certainly, the hate speech bill is an attempt to encroach on the legislative autonomy of the state governments.

“However, it is pertinent to point out that the Penal Code and Criminal Code applicable in the northern and southern states respectively have made provisions for hate speech because it is a state offence. Hence, the house of assembly of each of the state has enacted laws against incitement, false accusation, sedition and criminal defamation.”

Mr Falana decried the move, urging the sponsors of the bill to uphold the decision of Nigeria’s founding fathers who created a constitution that guarantees freedom of speech.

“The decision of the founding fathers of this present constitution which guarantees freedom of speech which must include freedom to criticize should be praised and any attempt to derogate from it except as provided in the Constitution must be resisted. Those in public office should not be intolerant of criticism. Where a writer exceeds the bounds there should be a resort to the law of libel where the plaintiff must of necessity put his character and reputation in issue.

“Finally, while the leaders of the national assembly may want to advise the legislature in each of the states of the federation to review the applicable penal statutes to review the provisions on hate speech we are compelled to urge the few bloodthirsty legislators in the national assembly to amend the anti-graft laws to provide death penalty for grand corruption perpetrated by politically exposed persons to the detriment of development in the country.”

He added that even though the bill is sponsored by a member of the House of Representatives, it has been adopted by the Buhari-Led Federal Government.

He maintained that the constitutional validity of the Bill will be challenged in the Federal High Court if it is passed by the national assembly and assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.